Posted: Tue 9th Nov 2021
The advancements in technology over time have been great for business, particularly those at the smaller end of the scale.
Using software, apps and other tech tools means small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can, for example:
be more efficient and productive
market themselves more effectively
have better control over their finances and spending
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the UK’s SMBs adopted technology that helped them stay up and running during lockdown. For some, it was their first step into the digital world. For others, it was vital to their survival. But not all businesses seem to have taken advantage.
How businesses could be using tech
New research by Dropbox and Enterprise Nation – which surveyed 901 businesses – found that by turning manual working processes into digital ones, an SMB could save around 150 hours each year.
Collectively, that saved time is worth the equivalent of £8.1 billion! And it’s time that businesses could instead be using to grow.
And yet a large number still aren’t making the most of the available tech options, such as:
document signing and e-signatures
project management tools
Indeed, around 25% of the business owners who responded to the survey said they didn’t use cloud computing or video conferencing. This is despite both tools being considered crucial to allowing businesses to operate through difficult situations.
At the same time, over 50% of the business owners surveyed had yet to adopt secure document signing and e-signatures.
So, despite the benefits of taking on this new technology, what’s stopping some smaller businesses from taking the plunge?
Barriers to technology
In the Dropbox/Enterprise Nation report, SMBs give a number of reasons for why they’re yet to implement new digital ways of working.
One key challenge is cost – some businesses see technology as a significant expense beyond their budget. Another common barrier is a lack of expert advice and information about the tech options available and how to best make use of them.
Andy Wilson, director at Dropbox UK, says:
“The UK’s small businesses have been held back by a lack of information about products and services, entry-level deals and free-tier products, as well as new tools that can help them push their business to the next level.
“We can’t expect time-poor small-business owners to navigate this complex landscape without guidance.”
According to the research, only 34.1% of businesses with one to 10 employees actively keep up with tech trends. With this size of organisation accounting for 96% of all UK businesses (5.7 million in 2020), encouraging owners to stay abreast of the latest business technology could have huge positive implications for the economy.
Help to Grow: Digital is a new UK-wide government scheme to help SMBs adopt digital technology that will allow them to work more productively.
Through an online platform, businesses can get free and impartial advice on how technology can benefit them, which options are most suitable, and how to go about buying and implementing the tools they choose.
Emma Jones CBE, CEO and founder of Enterprise Nation, says:
“We see at first hand the benefits that small businesses gain by being digitally savvy, and small business owners have done an amazing job in the past 18 months to adopt digital tools.
“It’s our job to continue to support them with the information and resources they need.
“Our research with Dropbox shows there are some barriers to tech adoption among the small business community and this will inform our work and engagement with government as we see the rollout of the Help to Grow: Digital programme.”